Catherine Taft

  • View of “Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness,” 2014.
    interviews July 24, 2014

    Christopher Williams

    Since the early 1980s, Cologne- and Los Angeles–based artist Christopher Williams has utilized photographic discourse as a way to analyze social, cultural, institutional, and economic histories. He speaks here about his three-part exhibition “The Production Line of Happiness,” which is Williams’s first major museum survey. It opened at the Art Institute of Chicago earlier this year and will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from July 27 to November 2, 2014, before traveling to Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 2015.

    I’VE WORKED almost my whole life as an artist to distance myself

  • View of “Paul Heyer,” 2013.

    Paul Heyer

    Oarfish, a twenty-seven-foot-tall soft sculpture representing the titular deep-sea creature, its silver silk body speckled with sumi-ink brushstrokes, presided over Paul Heyer’s second solo exhibition at Night Gallery. With a rippling, fiber-optic fin that glowed red in the darkened space, the fish was a curiosity among a show that featured fourteen semi-abstract paintings. The serpentlike form was borderline hokey, something you might find in a puppet theater or at a child’s birthday party. Yet the quietly symbolic allure of the fish—a mysterious and rarely seen creature that lives in

  • View of “Llyn Foulkes,” 2013. From left: O’Pablo, 1983; Big Sur, 1984; Ghost Hill, 1984; Saddle Peak, 1984. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

    Llyn Foulkes

    WE CAN’T ALL BE GOOD LOOKING: This ugly truth is written in the margin of a drawing, inked around 1949, by a teenage Llyn Foulkes. Fourteen or fifteen years old, the aspiring cartoonist sketches six goon-like men whose jowls droop, nostrils flare, tongues wag, and foreheads bulge, and whose necks are festooned with neat little ties. He signs the work “Spike Foulkes,” a nod to the bandleader and satirist Spike Jones, one of Foulkes’s great populist heroes. A tragicomic caricature of adult disposition filtered through an adolescent imagination, the piece already hints at subjects that would define

  • Amelie von Wulffen, Untitled, 2012, oil on canvas, 19 5/8 x 15 3/5".

    Amelie von Wulffen

    Amelie von Wulffen’s first solo museum show in the US comprised fifteen canvases that surrounded a conspicuous architectural intervention: The main gallery’s ductwork had been handpainted green and connected to the gallery floor by four green-striped faux columns that looked like so many oversize maypoles. Although this sculptural appendage seemed a curious choice—prominently emphasizing the gallery’s worst preexisting features and clashing with the artist’s markedly intimate canvases—the spatial tension it created was precisely the sort of visual and symbolic conflict von Wulffen aims

  • Allison Schulnik, Pink Shells, 2012, oil on canvas and board, 16 x 20".

    Allison Schulnik

    For such gendered mythological creatures, mermaids have a peculiarly sexless anatomy, at least below their scaled hips. So when Allison Schulnik paints a work like Mermaid with Legs (all works cited, 2012)—a large canvas depicting a seated nude spreading her legs to the viewer—she grants these half-women not only their sexuality but their personhood too. Similarly positioned, Mermaid with Legs #2 features a figure surrounded by brushy, flowerlike patterns that radiate across the surface of the canvas. Included in her recent exhibition “Salty Air,” these pictures are typical of Schulnik’s

  • Left: Artists Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz. Right: Aspen Art Museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson with collectors Lance Armstrong and Amy Phelan. (Photos: Billy Farrell)
    diary August 16, 2012

    Sachs Race

    TOM SACHS HAS MADE an art of aping the emblems and rituals of American culture. So when the artist was honored during the rituals of this year’s ArtCRUSH, it seemed a chance for the culture to give back. Wednesday marked the kick-off of the Aspen Art Museum’s annual benefit gala, and after eight years the museum and its winning host committee have the three-day fund-raiser down to a science. The events began with WineCRUSH, an opening ceremony held at the impressive home of collectors and AAM board members John and Amy Phelan. Though the Phelans’ collection was rehung to strike a serious note—with

  • Left: Listening to Frances Stark’s Trapped in the VIP and/or In Mr. Martin’s Inoperable Cadillac. Right: Artist Dave Muller. (All photos: Catherine Taft)
    diary May 16, 2012

    Lost Weekend

    “HAS IT REALLY BEEN TEN YEARS?” more than one partygoer wondered aloud last Friday night at the opening of Dave Muller’s resurrected Three Day Weekend (TWD). Indeed, it had been nearly a decade since the artist hosted one of his performance-exhibition events in Los Angeles, the last taking place at the Hammer Museum in late 2002. But apart from a few more silver foxes and a handful of children (two belonging to Muller and his wife, Ann Faison), very little seemed to have changed since the heyday of those storied parties. Tecate and ice cubes filled a clawfoot bathtub; art was installed on a

  • Mitchell Syrop, Bifurcated Life (detail), 2011, twenty-eight framed color ink-jet prints, each 22 x 15 1/2".

    Mitchell Syrop

    It would be all too easy to describe Mitchell Syrop’s recent body of text-based works as the product of some loose stream of consciousness. But this show’s sole work, Bifurcated Life, 2011—comprising twenty-eight archival prints, each identically framed and hung in a single line across three walls—ultimately gives a more complicated portrait: The hastily generated, half-cocked thoughts scrawled by the artist in pencil suggest the hand of a Concrete poet crossed with a serial killer. Scanned from a lined notebook and enlarged to nearly twenty-three by sixteen inches, these “documents”

  • Liz Glynn, Kreutzberg Hoard, 2011, shopping cart armature, produce, gold leaf, acrylic, 36 x 12 x 10".

    Liz Glynn

    In her exhibition “No Second Troy,” Liz Glynn made her own archaeological dig through the epic chronicles of “Priam’s Treasure”—the supposed gold of Troy discovered by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1873—in order to trace (forward and in reverse) the movement of the people, objects, ideas, identities, and truths implicated in the story and its historical residue. Taken from Schliemann’s excavation site at Hissarlik (in modern-day Turkey), this resplendent cache of axes, pots, jewelry, and other such items was displayed in Berlin until Allied bombing campaigns forced

  • Mike Kelley, untitled, ca. 1974–76, duotone lithographic print, 24 x 17". From “Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters, 1973–1977.”

    “Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters, 1973–1977”

    Among Mike Kelley’s 1976 series “Untitled (Allegorical Drawings),” a sketch shows a bony nude figure crouching on the mutating head of another; the caption below reads, CRUDE PEASANTS STANDING ON THE GLORY THAT ONCE WAS ROME—UNAWARE OF A RICH HERITAGE. The understated drawing, one of many from this period included in Prism’s exhibition “Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters, 1973–1977,” seems emblematic of the attitude behind the protopunk/art collective founded by Kelley, Cary Loren, Niagara, and Jim Shaw. With inborn eccentricity, subtle aggression, and faux naïveté, the four

  • View of “Polly Apfelbaum,” 2011.

    Polly Apfelbaum

    Polly Apfelbaum’s “Feelies”—an ongoing series of small, unfired polymer-clay sculptures that the artist began during her Yaddo residency in 2010—point to a handful of cultural references, namely the midcentury abstractions of painter Paul Feeley, the “feelie” vessels created by potter Rose Cabat, and the proto–indie rock of the Feelies. The title of this show, “Double Nickels on the Dime,” was also referential, having been taken from an album by West Coast hardcore band Minutemen that, in turn riffs on a song by former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar. Such layers of knowledge could be

  • Stephen Shore, Abu Dhabi, 2009, color photograph, 16 x 20".

    Stephen Shore

    Sometimes a quiet, understated image demands equally unfussy discourse, which is why it is difficult (if not counterintuitive even to try) to articulate the vernacular magic within Stephen Shore’s photographs: scenes that are familiar yet rare, static but pregnant with energy, at once immediate and strangely drawn out. In Shore’s work, even a title can say too much, so it seems appropriate that the thirty-two prints (all works 2009) exhibited at the Aspen Art Museum this summer share the same title: “Abu Dhabi.” Produced during the artist’s first visit to the capital emirate, this series depicts